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What is it with people and their makeshift shrines in front of famous dead people’s houses?  When did that become a…thing?  I admit that I got a little teary eyed when Princess Diana was killed, but by the time JFK Jr. died I was over it.  I distinctly remember rolling my eyes at the hordes of fans that left flowers and what-not outside his house.    Why were they so desperate to be part of the “shared consciousness” or whatever they call it?  You didn’t know the man, get over yourself.

Still, I felt sad about Heath Ledger.  I thought about him off and on all day, and I couldn’t understand why.  Maybe it was because I felt bad about his daughter, who was born a few days before mine.  Maybe I felt close to him for his depressed, aloof demeanor.  I think maybe he just got under my skin somehow.  He got under my skin and I didn’t even know it until he turned up dead.  Damn he was good.

For some reason I got the bright idea to go and visit his apartment building.  Everyone was doing it.  Besides, it was sorta practically around the corner from my office, and since there was no danger of me running into his corpse anymore (thank you for the footage, CNN) who could it hurt?  Sure, I hate Soho, and the cobblestone streets would be murder on my Nine West boots, but I needed closure.

I wondered what the protocol was for this sort of thing.  Should I bring flowers?  Take pictures?  Would I cry?  What if someone saw me?  What if a reporter asked me What Heath Ledger’s Death Meant To Me?  I could just see the byline:  “Local Moron Distraught Over Dead Celebrity.”  Yeesh. 

I briefly considered wearing a paper bag over my head, then decided against it.  I told them at work I was going to “run some errands” and got on the downtown F train.  (The building might not have been as close as I made it out to be a minute ago).  Finally I arrived.  While I was approaching the building I began to feel a little stupid.  OK, very stupid.  I started to realize that this little exercise probably wasn’t going to make me feel any better about the whole thing.  It wasn’t like he was going to come down and bring me enlightenment or give me a hot stock tip.  What did I think was going to happen?

Here’s what happened.  There were news vans, lots and lots of news vans, with great big satellite dishes on the roofs.  There were reporters standing in front of the building interviewing each other.  There were people like me trying to look like it was perfectly reasonable to be standing around Broome Street in the middle of the afternoon.  I saw an SUV with a dirty window and someone had written “heath wash me” on it.  I was going to take a picture but I didn’t want to get bitch slapped by some asshole reporter.  At one point one of the neighborhood shrews passed by and shouted “What do you people expect to seeeeeeee?”  (Translation: “I live in this neighborhood and I don’t care about stuff, I’m better than you.”  I hate Soho.).  Oh, and there was a really cute dress in the boutique across the street.

So how do I feel now?  I feel thankful.  For not bringing flowers.  I would have looked like a whole fool if I had shown up with flowers.  I also feel slightly jealous of Heath Ledger because he got to live a block away from Pearl River Mart, which is the best store ever.  So much for closure.

In the end I guess I realized that Heath Ledger was just a poor slob who made our lives a little more interesting.  I didn’t know him and now I never will.  He’s still dead and I’m still sad about it, but I’ll live.

So in case you’re thinking about visiting a celebrity shrine someday, don’t bother.  I’ve already done it, so now you don’t have to.  You’re welcome.



  1. Thanks for saving me a trip. 😉

    (I can understand the need to go though.)

  2. I’m betting you get lots of blog traffic the next few days.

    It’s sad, especially for his child. While I can say I don’t know why anyone would go there, the truth is if I was as close as you are, I would have gone too.

  3. You were not sad when JFK Jr. died? Wow. I think you are the only person on the planet. I was devastated. I felt like I had lost a family member. I remember when he was born!

  4. Wanda, Wanda, Wanda…you didn’t go leave a t-shirt?

  5. Well, I’ve seen the death houses of Jon Benet Ramsey and Lacy Peterson. There’s something about visiting a place where you know someone has died. It’s like rubbernecking a fatal car accident. You are normal Wanda. But thank God you didn’t bring flowers.

  6. Corina, I did feel sad when JFK died. I just didn’t get people’s reactions.

    And no Sissy, I didn’t leave a t-shirt. (I’m trying to find a witty, yet tasteful retort but it escapes me).

  7. I felt sad when JFK jr died, but I think it was because for all that he was supposedly American Royalty, his life had stunk a lot, as far as I could see. He was a young man with a young wife and a business–and I felt sorry about him dying before he got a shot at being someone else besides JFK sr’s son.

    Yes, I was dreadful suggesting you leave a t-shirt. It was just my Inner Marketer. Apologies…

  8. No apology necessary Sissy. As you know I often walk the fine line between tasteful and dreadful myself.

    • Vicky In The Middle
    • Posted January 24, 2008 at 3:18 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    If I’d been in NYC when John Lennon was killed, I would have gone to the apartment building. But also, he was gunned down on the sidewalk in front of the building, so somehow that makes a difference. That’s the only time I’ve wished to visit a death scene.

  9. Wanda, you’re so interesting. Yeah, for some reason he sort of got under my skin, too. He seemed so nice and unaffected. It’s so sad for his daughter and stuff. And his family of course.

    I sort of understand going down there… sort of kind of.

    I never understood those people who would drive to Nicole Brown Simpson’s house, though. That was weird.

  10. Like Vicky, John Lennon’s would have been the only place I’d have gone as far as a death scene goes.

    Not that it makes you a bad person for going there. If I were your age, I might have done the same thing.

  11. WANDA! How you gonna keep losing me?! I feel saddened by this 😦

    Also, thanks for taking one for the team. I woulda gone, too, if I lived in NY

  12. Sorry Danners. I’ve been smoking those damn banana peels again.

  13. It’s cool, Wnada. I’m still mad at you, though. So mad that I noticed I misspelled your name and I’m NOT going to fix it. So, there!

  14. I’ve often wondered why people have a need to visit makeshift shrines. I grew up in the midst of “Hollywood” and I never did come to understand that whole shrine phenomena.

  15. I understand candles, and possibly even flowers, but the notes and pictures and teddy bears and crap — he’s DEAD, people, he’s not going to read a stupid freakin’ NOTE. There’s a fine line between tribute and litter, and those people have crossed it.

    I cried when I visited Graceland. You probably had to be there.

  16. Geez. I had to have the folks at work tell me who he was, and even then, “He was in Brokeback Mountain” only meant he’d been in a well-received movie I have never seen.

    We have to participate in the Cult of Celebrity or be part of pop culture in order for some of these deaths to have any other impact than: “what a shame that another young man died too young.”

    And, if that’s our reaction, we have countless cemeteries devoted to that thought, like Arlington.

  17. That was pretty deep Shado. You really should see Brokeback, I think you’d like it.

  18. I’ve been really sad about this. I’ve heard people complaining about how out of control celebrity worship is but I just think they’re lacking empathy. It’s always sad when a young person dies but when they are famous and a lot of their friends and family are public figures it is impossible to ignore the fact a young life has been lost and there are lots of people experiencing a lot of pain right now.

    I remember when he got his ‘hollywood break’ (the Australian media loves local actors who start scoring jobs in Hollywood) and then had the fairytale romance with Naomi Watts (the media loved that too), he hated the media attention and the paparazzi. I thought it was so sweet when he and Michelle both got Oscar Nominations and he got a family of his own. I was sad when they broke up and now he has died. It must be such a painfull time for his siblings and parents and little Matilda is going to have to grow up without him.

  19. Wanda you really are a stalker in waiting. But I get it. I don’t believe you would take a road trip to see this, but the tempation of having it only a short subway ride away is too much for many people. This story continues to haunt me, although I agree with some of your other commenters that celeb culture gets too much attention when the trouble of youth dying is much more common than it should be for everyday people like us.

    I did see a great feature on CBS Sunday Morning today that examined the overall fragility of film actors that was kind of interesting though. Here is a link to the print/script of the segment.

  20. Interesting article Wenderina.

    I think people react to these things because it’s something of a shock. I don’t think anyone would react the same way if Brit Brit turned up dead, you kinda see it coming. I think that’s why people were so distraught when Princess Di died, but not so much for Mother Teresa when she died a week later. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

    I think what I was trying to convey in this article was that going to the “scene of the crime” seemed like a good idea at the time, but halfway there I realized the stupidity of it all. There’s no point in trying to make meaning where there is none. A celebrity dying from an accidental overdose is what it is, nothing more.

  21. Of course, most of the things I do I do because they seem like a good idea at the time. 😛

  22. The reporters interview each other?

    I was sad about Princess Diana, too.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Msense on 23 Jan 2008 at 8:47 pm

    […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  2. By Exercise Pictures on 24 Jan 2008 at 1:17 am

    […] Exclusive: Deadpan Visits Heath Ledger Death House […]

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